2024 Champions Cup Preview: Into The Woods

The woods major is here.

Northwood Black. Photo: DGPT

It’s time once again to head into the woods and crown a pair of Major champions, including the first of the 2024 season in MPO.

The 2024 PDGA Champions Cup begins this Thursday, April 25th: it was anything but a smooth road to get here. Rather than being played at the International Disc Golf Center in Appling, Georgia, the event will instead be contested at an even more demanding course at Northwood Park in Morton, Illinois. Northwood Black is traditionally used for two rounds during the Ledgestone Open, a DGPT Elite+ event — the Champions Cup layout contains 14 holes from Northwood Black and 4 holes from the Gold layout to avoid holes that tend to get swampy when wet.

In September, the PDGA announced that the IDGC’s premier course, WR Jackson, would be lost due to an infestation of southern pine beetles, which would require the removal of hundreds of pine trees on the course.  As a result, the 2024 Champions Cup was rescheduled to begin on October 31st of this year on a new course at the IDGC.  The tree clearing did not begin as early as hoped, and in November, the PDGA announced that the event would be moving to Northwood in late June.  However, the new date conflicted with the Swedish Open, a European DGPT event that many European and American pros intended on playing. After considerable backlash from players and fans, the date was moved once again to this week.

Last year, both Kristin Tattar and Isaac Robinson left their respective fields in the dust. Tattar shot the hot round each day and won by an astounding 14 strokes over Ohn Scoggins. Isaac Robinson shot the hot round two out of four days and comfortably walked in a five-stroke victory over Eagle McMahon. Over the course of the weekend, he birdied 17 of the 18 holes on the property and carded just two bogeys. Both players would go on to win the World Championships later in the year.

Past Winners

2023: Isaac Robinson, Kristin Tattar
2022: Chris Dickerson, Paige Pierce

Five Things We’ll Be Watching

1. Coming off back-to-back wins, Kristin Tattar is hitting her stride just in time for the second FPO Major of the year. Tattar is not very familiar with this course, having only played two competitive rounds on Northwood during the 2022 Ledgestone Open, where she finished tied for 3rd. Kristin opened that tournament with a 5-under par hot round on Northwood but shot just 1-under par in the final round. She was still able to collect five birdies in that final round, but limiting mistakes at Northwood is just as important as carding birdies. Kristin is a very patient player and should have no trouble scoring relative to the field.  Keeping the big numbers off her scorecard should be a recipe for success this weekend. By adding a 7th Major title to her resume, Tattar would tie Catrina Allen, Elaine King, and Des Reading for 3rd most FPO Major wins all-time.

2. Paige Pierce and Paul McBeth will always be a headline when Majors roll around. Both players have 17 career pro major titles, just one shy of the great Ken Climo. Pierce set the FPO record at 17 in 2022 when she surpassed Valarie Jenkins. In the past, she’s alluded to a competition between her and McBeth to reach 20 Major titles, so there’s even more at stake for both players than simply matching Climo’s record of 18. Of course, for McBeth, he also has the opportunity to add a Champions Cup win to his resume. Pierce has already tallied a win back at the inaugural event in 2022. If the four current MPO majors are going to be in place for the foreseeable future, McBeth needs a Champions Cup win to complete the career grand slam. Paul is rounding into form at the perfect time, coming off a runner-up finish at last week’s Music City Open.

3. Since 2022, nobody has shot better to par on Northwood Black than Ricky Wysocki, who won the 2022 Ledgestone Open and finished 3rd in 2023. Wysocki was also the runner-up at the 2022 Champions Cup, though he was forced to miss last year’s event while dealing with a Lyme disease related injury. Ricky is a six-time Major champion but has not won a Major in nearly seven years now. Cole Redalen is another player to watch this week after winning the 2023 Ledgestone Open. On his way to victory, Redalen tied the Northwood course record of 9-under par previously set by Calvin Heimburg. Heimburg had to share the Ledgestone championship with Ricky Wysocki in 2021 due to a canceled final round and was the runner-up to Redalen last year. Calvin is coming off a rough performance at the Music City Open and is still looking for his first Major championship win. Without the use of his sidearm, he could have some difficulty when it comes to scrambling through the woods this week. (Note that Simon Lizotte, this past weekend’s MCO champion, will not compete this week as he has returned home for the birth of his second child.)

4. Since 2022, no FPO player has shot better to par on Northwood Black than Missy Gannon, who won both the 2022 and 2023 Ledgestone Open. Gannon, of course, won the USWDGC title in March and is looking to pick up her second official Major win in as many months. Aside from Kristin Tattar, her closest competition should be Ohn Scoggins, who finished as the runner-up to Gannon at the Ledgestone Open in both ‘22 and ‘23. Scoggins and Gannon should both be well rested after choosing to take last week off to help prepare for the Major. A trio of possible European contenders in Eveliina Salonen, Henna Blomroos, and Heidi Laine will be interesting to follow as none of them has ever played at Northwood. Salonen, in particular, is a tremendous distance thrower in the woods. All three players have podium finishes at Major championships, though Salonen is the only previous winner in the group.

5. This week is take-two on Eagle McMahon making his season debut after rehabbing from offseason shoulder surgery. Eagle was supposed to play last week’s Music City Open but pulled a muscle in his back prior to leaving for the event. McMahon waited until the morning of round one to officially withdraw in hopes that he could play. Hopefully everything has cleared up and Eagle is feeling as close to 100% as possible for the first Major of the season. McMahon has not played Ledgestone since 2021, when he finished in 3rd place and performed very well on Northwood Black. While expectations should remain low, the last time Eagle returned from injury to play a Major at the European Open in 2022, he won the event with the highest event rating in PDGA history.

The Course

Northwood Black is a treacherously long and tightly wooded track that features some of the most difficult holes on tour. In fact, hole 12 at Northwood is the single hardest hole in the MPO division, averaging more than a stroke over par. The 1,050 foot behemoth has given up just 12 birdies in 896 attempts since 2021 for a birdie rate of 1.34%.

A few course changes have been implemented for this event. Holes 3, 4, and 5 from the previous layout have been removed, and three new holes have been added from the Gold layout to the course. Holes 9 and 10, which are new this year, play through a little more open space than your typical Northwood holes. Hole 18 has also been extended into a par 5, and the green is now out in the open for spectators to witness the event’s conclusion more easily.

2024 MPO: 11,141 Foot Par 69
2023 Ledgestone MPO: 10,499 Foot Par 68

2024 FPO: 8,978 Foot Par 69
2023 Ledgestone FPO: 8,678 Foot Par 68

Extended Forecast

Sadly, the weather is looking to be windy and rainy throughout the weekend.  The chance of thunderstorms in rounds 2-4 could lead to delays.

Thursday: Cloudy early then mostly sunny late, highs in the mid 60s. Winds 5 to 10 mph.

Friday: Thunderstorms and rain early, highs in the upper 60s.  Winds 15 to 25 mph with higher gusts possible.  Chance of rain 100%.

Saturday: Windy with showers early then scattered thunderstorms developing late in the day, highs in the upper 70s.  Winds 20 to 30 mph with higher gusts possible. Chance of rain 40%.

Sunday: Windy with scattered thunderstorms throughout the day and potential for severe thunderstorms, highs in the upper 70s. Winds 20 to 30 mph. Chance of rain 60%.

  1. Justin Westfall
    Justin Westfall

    Justin Westfall is a contributor at Ultiworld Disc Golf who enjoys living in Southern California, where he can play disc golf year-round. Off the course, he works in the film industry and prides himself on being a lifelong Buffalo Bills fan. You can find Justin on Twitter and Instagram @PDGAStats.



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